Tips for Treating TMJ Disorders

TMJ, or temporo mandibular joint disorder, is a very common disorder that is surprisingly complicated to treat. Though an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ, a one-size-fits-all treatment to reduce symptoms has not been found.

Currently, those with TMJ symptoms can opt between treatments that are conservative and reversible or those that are irreversible. Conservative and reversible treatments don’t invade the facial tissues and do not cause any permanent changes in the structure of the jaw. Irreversible treatments consist of surgery and specialized implants.

For most people suffering from TMJ, non-aggressive treatments are the best choice and are easily incorporated into everyday life.

Conservative Treatment Options

Most TMJ disorders are common and temporary. In a majority of patients, simple treatment should relieve most of the discomfort that results from issues with the jaw joint.

Pain Medications

If self-care doesn’t ease the symptoms, pain medications can be prescribed. Over-the-counter pain medicines or NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen, can help provide temporary relief. If the pain does not subside, doctors may prescribe other anti-inflammatory options.

Stabilization Splints

Stabilization splints are the most common treatment for TMJ disorders. Because studies as to their effectiveness are not conclusive, a stabilization splint should not be used for a long period of time.

Stabilization splits do not result in a permanent bit change or cause the patient pain.

Botox

While Botox is not currently approved by the FDA as a treatment for use in TMJ disorders, in small doses it can help alleviate some of the symptoms of TMJ.

Initial studies regarding the effectiveness of Botox for use to treat TMJ disorders were inconclusive.

Encourage Self-Care

Self-care is the first option provided to patients. They should explore:

  • Eating soft foods and avoiding any hard or crunchy foods
  • Applying ice packs to the jaw
  • Avoiding harsh jaw movements like gum chewing and wide yawning
  • Practice relaxation and stress-reduction exercises
  • Regularly perform gentle jaw stretches and exercises to improve jaw movement

Shy Away From Permanent Changes

Irreversible treatments can sometimes make a TMJ disorder worse. Therefore, it is best not to recommend these treatments to patients.

Common permanent treatments offered to those suffering from TMJ disorders include surgery and implants that change the bite, crown or bridge work

Suggest a Physical Therapist

A physical therapist can help patients improve their posture, breathing and swallowing. All of these improvements will help alleviate the symptom of TMJ disorders.

Chronic TMJ disorders are commonly caused by a misalignment of the back or neck or swallowing too much. The solution to these issues can be as simple as some physical therapy and self-care.

TMJ disorders pose many challenges to the dental community, and enough research has not been carried out to conclusively offer solid solutions to help alleviate the root cause and symptoms of the disorder, according to Dr. Jonathan Everett of Kirkland Family Dentistry in Kirkland, WA.

Many dental practitioners, however, do offer conservative treatments, and should continue to do so until better treatments have been extensively developed.

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